Innovation with a purpose

Published: Sep 2023

Bank of America’s Breakthrough Lab scales entrepreneurial ideas, enabling talented founders in under-represented communities to build businesses. It’s rolling out in more US cities and eyeing overseas expansion.

Bank of America is expanding Breakthrough Lab, an impact accelerator that provides economic opportunity and advancement to entrepreneurs from under-represented communities. Its goal is to enable talented founders with big ideas to scale their businesses, create jobs and build generational wealth. The 2022-2023 programme will expand within the US and will also go global, with onboarding startups from Asia-Pacific, Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America.

The Lab works with early-stage startups focused on ideas in financial technology or digital-enabled ideas that promote financial inclusion. These startups are pre-seed – ie, they have not yet received a round of seed funding. Ideally, the Lab is looking for founder teams between two and five people in size.

“We’re committed to diversity and inclusion,” says Rodney Gardner, Program Sponsor for the Breakthrough Lab, “and excited to help under-represented founders from ideation to product launch and drive economic opportunity in their communities.”

Set up for success

Startups that join the Breakthrough Lab benefit from a comprehensive and customised virtual learning programme that sets them up to succeed in business. The six-month programme provides:

  • Assistance, advice, and expertise to develop a business model.
  • Access to industry professionals, venture capital firms, and fintech companies.
  • Opportunities to connect with a global network of like-minded entrepreneurs.
  • Connections to providers of capital – investors, grant providers, CDFIs – that can help startups secure funding following graduation from the programme.
  • Generous financial benefits of up to US$11,000 per startup, including a stipend for programme expenses and a brand design package.

To deliver its curriculum, the Lab leverages Bank of America’s expansive internal network of experts, as well as its partners within the startup ecosystem. The initiative also supports startups to make connections beyond their mentors, and beyond the programme, so they can tap the vast ecosystem of expertise that exists. In the future, the Breakthrough Lab could also present opportunities for our clients to collaborate with innovative startups.

So far, startups in the Breakthrough Lab pilot have been extremely positive in their feedback. Founders of the Zone, a digital platform designed to help student-athletes monitor and support their mental health and wellness, described it as “nothing short of amazing”, saying: “The Bank of America team has shown how much they care by going above and beyond for its members, whether it be through guidance, resources, or networking opportunities to help grow the companies involved within the programme.”

Executives at MultiGenerational, a financial technology company that is making investing accessible for black first-time investors, said of the programme: “So many great presenters, with game-changing ideas, and we are already seeing the difference in our pre-sales.”

Bank of America is committed to following the progress of startups that join our Breakthrough Lab. After graduation, the Lab will follow each startup to see the headway they are making as they scale – in terms of product enhancements, infusion of capital and job creation.

Keep an eye out for next month’s Thought for the Month.

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